The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will deliver five ground stations and a total of 500 Very Small Aperture Terminals (VSAT) to enable its neighbours to benefit from satellite-based services such as TV, Internet, telephone, disaster management, and telemedicine. This programme is in response to China’s growing influence across Asia. India’s Ku-band GSAT-9 satellite, launched in 2017, is dedicated to delivering services to support all South Asian countries as part of the South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
The ground stations will be located in Bhutan, Nepal, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh and will enable India to use its assets strategically as well as to help to bolster co-operation and dialogue between itself and its neighbouring countries. The ground stations will also provide ISRO with more sites to communicate with its satellites.
Reports state that the initial ground station will be commissioned in Thimphu, Bhutan. The site will reportedly be ready on 9 January and inaugurated by 15 January 2019. Sources say that this site responds to China’s advanced satellite tracking and astronomical observatory that the country set up in Ngari, Tibet.
500 VSAT terminals will also be given at 100 per country to Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. The terminals will be two-way, allowing Internet and telephony services. Bhutan will also receive an additional 100 receive-only terminals that will be used for TV delivery to more remote areas of the country. The Maldives has also requested assistance with the setting-up of a series of disaster management centres for 100 of its inhabited islands. In addition, Afghanistan has also expressed interest in a ground station and 100 VSAT terminals in the future.